Chinatown: a private investigator is led blindly into a complex conspiracy involving murder, betrayal and state-wide fraud. What surprised me most was Polanski‘s bland and underwhelming direction – which I was expecting to be stellar given the endless plaudits Chinatown receives. It doesn’t even feel like much of a Noir compared to staple genre pictures like The Maltese Falcon, or even a modern stab at Noir, like Brick. The story’s slow-burner, and isn’t always the easiest to follow, but worse still, almost none of the characters developed enough to connect with – they just seemed to be there to facilitate the next plot twist. When it finally rolls around the final act is as good as the film gets, but it feels like too little too late – it also may have been crazy / shocking / controversial back then, but when held up against the shocks we see these days, it carries a far lighter punch on modern audiences. For me, the combination of story, direction, acting, script and overall ‘wallop’ are average at best; although I suspect that having appeared in almost every ‘best films ever’ list, maybe the bar was just set far, far too high.

Score: 4/10

... after.

… after.

  1. Interesting. I’m not surprised to hear a less than glowing reaction to Chinatown, but hearing it described in such low terms is rare. I do wonder if you placed it on such a pedestal that it was bound to disappoint. This isn’t a criticism, as it’s really tough to watch a movie that’s been set up as a great movie and not have preconceived notions. I had a similar experience with The Maltese Falcon, which I found to be pretty average. I caught Chinatown in a film class back in high school, and it blew me away at that point. I haven’t revisited it recently, so you never know how it would go.


    • Paragraph Film Reviews said:

      Yep, I see where you’re coming from. It’s tough trying to point out legitimate reasons as to why you didn’t like ‘seminal’ movies. Perhaps it’s just that films are so big-loud-fast these days that anything before the massive 1980s action pics feel slow and droll…


  2. Thank you. I feel the same way about Chinatown, very underwhelming. I was thinking about writing an Awesomely Shitty post about it. But it was so long ago, I’d have to rewatch it in order to comment on it. And that’s something I don’t really want to do!


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